Galle Dutch Fort
Sri Lanka’s best preserved colonial townscape is enclosed with huge walls and bastions which now protect the area from modernization as effectively as they once protected Dutch trading interests from marauding adventurers.
The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1619and subsequently developed and expanded by the Dutch and the British, the one-time colonial master of the island. What now remains is mostly the work of the Dutch and the British. Declared a world heritage site in 1988, the fort has an understated, quietly decaying charm, its low-rise streets lined with old churches and Dutch colonial Villas, many of them retaining their street-facing verandahs, their white plaster now stripped by the sea and weathered to a peeling grey. They is actually not much to see (a few bizarre museums excepted), the main pleasure is just ambling round the atmospheric od streets and round the walls, enjoying the easy pace of life and refreshing absence of traffic – you won’t find a quieter town anywhere else in the island.
History of Galle
Ancient history and settlement.
Galle is thought to be the Biblical Tarshish, from where king Solomon gold, spices, ivory, apes and peacocks, and the combination of its fine natural harbor and strategic position of its sea route between Arabia, India and South East Asia made the town an important trading emporium long before the arrival of the Europeans.
In 1505 a Portuguese fleet heading for the Maldives ran into a storm and was forced to find refuge in the harbor. The fanciful story goes that, upon hearing the town’s cocks (in Portuguese Galo) crowing in the dusk, they christened the town Punto de Gale.
It wasn’t until 1588-89 that the Portuguese renewed their interest in Galle, building a small fort in Santa Cruz, which they later extended with a series of bastions and walls. The Dutch captured Galle in 1640 after a four-day siege, and in 1663 expanded the original Dutch fortifications to enclose the whole of Galle’s sea facing promontory, establishing the street plans and system bastions which survive to this day.